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Citylife Critic's Picks 

LOCAL HEROJohn FoxLet's see here. John Fox takes over a Carolina Panthers team that was 1-15 in 2001 and improves their record to 7-9 in 2002. In 2003, he leads them to an 11-5 record, makes the playoffs, defeats Dallas, St. Louis and Philadelphia in short order, and earns his team a spot in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Pretty good season, wouldn't you say? Of course, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were ultimately victorious, but the final score was almost anticlimactic to a town that nearly shut down every time the Cardiac Cats played. Each week, Fox and Co. found ways to win despite seemingly insurmountable odds, relying on a no-flash offense and workmanlike defense that resonated with our conservative little burg. Equal parts strategist and blue-collar motivator, Fox managed to keep his players out of the rap sheet and focused on the stat sheet, something the two Georges -- Shinn and Seifert -- were always at a loss to do. We're probably due for a bit of a letdown this season -- how many close games can one team possibly win? -- but at least we know we have the right man for the job. Thank you, Steve Spurrier!

LOCAL ZERODee Dee HarrisHarris, a wealthy socialite, ran into trouble in her quest to bring Saks Fifth Avenue to Charlotte. Harris figured that taxpayers, most of whom cannot afford to shop at Saks, should bail her project out, since she stands to lose the $15 million she's already invested. So she asked the Charlotte City Council to fork over enough dough to help her bring the retailer to the corner of Park and Gleneagles roads. "Every person wants to leave the world better than they found it," she wrote to the council. "If that were not so, I would be playing tiddly-winks at the beach now. Instead I have chosen to dedicate the last 12 years of my life to taking almost insurmountable risks and jumping hurdles too tall for me, but they are not too tall for you." It's worth noting that the shopping development would be a convenient drive for Mrs. Harris, who lives in a $6 million mansion nearby.

BEST ACTIVISTSJohn and Cindy WoodliefThese two crusaders for common sense have taken on local government idiocy and inconsistency by fighting the development of four new million-dollar homes in a floodplain area that has recently been under water. The development was approved near their Eastover home by city and county staff. The Woodliefs have since spent their own money to successfully prove it violates local ordinances over the whiney objections of local officials who approved it despite an endless string of errors on the part of local government and the developer. It's worth noting that the county has spent roughly $15 million to purchase and tear down houses in floodplain areas similar to the one the four homes will be built in.

BEST NEW SLOGAN FOR CHARLOTTE"Just South Of Concord Mills And The Speedway"We also liked a couple of the readers' suggestions: "Buy Me" and "Who Needs Speed Cameras In Bumper-to-Bumper Traffic?"

BEST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTNoneThis is a sad era for quality government in our fair burg, but we continue to hold out hope that someday, someone who is worth the trouble will run for office and that Charlotte-Mecklenburg voters will recognize this and actually vote for them.

WORST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTThe Entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg School BoardThe competition was stiff in this category, but in the end it was clear that the board had outdone itself. These people are so obsessed with where schools should be built and what kind of bricks to use that they've utterly lost track of what's going on inside them. The board and a committee spent months hashing out whether to spend $30 million, a fraction of its total budget, on building schools to relieve overcrowding, then ultimately refused to make a decision while test scores continued to stagnate. Many on the board were then shocked to learn that, all the while, they were systematically discriminating against low-income children by providing them with the least experienced teachers in the system. On top of that, their nyah-nyah arguments and pettiness in public meetings are an embarassment to the community. It's time for all of them to quit arguing and get a clue.

BIGGEST WASTE OF TAX MONEYMayor Pat McCroryHe probably costs the city less than $50,000 in real dollars when his salary, travel expenses and incidentals are all figured in. What the city is getting for that, though, isn't entirely clear. McCrory is an ace schmoozer who has collected a long list of national organization and committee titles and useful political connections while sucking up to national political and bureaucratic types. We have no doubt this will further his political career. But what has he done for Charlotte lately in terms of major initiatives, programs or even ideas? The last one that comes to mind was the mass transit tax in 1998. That was six years ago. Since then, exactly what use he has served, other than playing the role of a smile in a suit, is up for debate.

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